By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Defensive end Dwight Freeney can’t wait for the 2009 season to arrive.
With a new defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, now on board, the Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl defensive lineman is looking forward to yet another banner campaign.
Freeney’s surgically repaired left foot, which sidelined him for the second half of the 2007 season, feels fine. While he put up good numbers last year (30 tackles, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles), Freeney is optimistic heading into training camp.
While no major changes are expected to the Colts’ overall defensive scheme, Coyer will no doubt make a few tweaks.
“He [Coyer] definitely has new stuff, some very interesting things that help out a lot and are a lot different from last year. We also have a lot that is the same and I think, sometimes, change is a good thing. So, we’ll see what happens,” Freeney said earlier this week.
“I think you’ll probably see more movement and maybe some different coverages and fronts, mostly doing some things just to tweak it up a bit and keep the offense on their toes. I like a lot of the changes. We’ll see what happens. It’s easy to say that now, but I have confidence that what we have now will work.”
Despite the addition of Coyer, the remainder of the Colts’ defensive coaching staff remains the same with John Teerlinck handling the defensive line, Mike Murphy coaching the linebackers and Alan Williams tutoring the secondary, along with Rod Perry.
And then there’s the promotion of former quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to the head coaching position.
“Every year going into a new year there is always change. Even with the same coordinator there is going to be change, because you always have to improve from the year before,” Freeney said.
“Obviously, we have a new coordinator this year and there’s probably a little bit more change than what we’re used too, but it might be a good thing. The same pieces are out there doing what we do.”
And if he’s asked to drop back in pass coverage?
“I don’t think so, but if they do ask me [to] I’ll be all right,” he laughed.
• Saturday ready to go — Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday hasn’t noticed a big difference on the offensive side of the ball with the possible losses of longtime assistant coaches Tom Moore and Howard Mudd.
“I’ll say this, I don’t really know exactly what is going on, and so I probably will just defer [to coach Jim Caldwell]. I really don’t know what the situation is with all the staff changes. I know we have a new defensive coordinator and a new special teams coach,” Saturday said recently.
“But other than that, I dealt with Howard [Mudd] and Tom [Moore] in the preseason stuff already, so while they’ve been gone for a few weeks, nothing has really changed for me up to this point.”
Saturday doesn’t foresee many changes to what the Colts do offensively or how the offensive line will be coached whether Moore or Mudd are back or not.
“Pete’s [Metzelaars] been here maybe four or five years, he’s been here with me forever. I know he knows the offense as well as any staff member. He knows football. He played 15, maybe 16 years up in Buffalo and different places around the league. There is definitely not going to be any issue of him not knowing our offense or football, he’s as good as they come,” he said.
“As far as him taking over and asserting that role as the guy you look to, that’s the only thing that will be different. Over the last couple of years, when you come off the field, you talk to Pete, you talk to Howard [Mudd]. He’s up on the headset, so he’s pretty much communicating with you year ’round. So there’s not going to be a whole lot of difference as far as that goes.”
• Injury news — It’s going to be hard keeping cornerback Marlin Jackson and running back Mike Hart off the practice field the remainder of this spring and in the early portion of training camp.
Both missed most of the 2008 season with knee injuries. Despite undergoing surgery, they are ahead of schedule in terms of their rehabilitation.
“I’m ready to go, full go,” Hart, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Baltimore on Oct. 12, said Thursday. “That’s what you put yourself on schedule for and as long as there’s no setbacks. I know that I can play right now, pretty much. I can do everything right now. [Training] camp, there’s no question. That’s two more months away.”
Jackson’s recovery from multiple surgeries on Oct. 31 (meniscus) and a Dec. 1 (a torn anterior cruciate ligament) in his right knee has been impressive. He has been hurt during a midweek practice a week earlier.
“I’ve been blessed so far. I’ve healed up faster than everybody thought I would. In my own mind, I’m right where I thought I would [be] at this point in time,” he said. “I’m very happy with where I am. I might test some things [during the team’s organized team activity workouts] and make some movement to see how it feels, but I’m very confident right now with doing drills and doing the work that I do off of the [practice] field. It helps me build that confidence up when I step out there in a lot of situations.
“It definitely feels good [to be practicing again]. You put a lot of work in to get back out there on the field. There’s a lot of hard work and dedication put in to come back from an injury such as an ACL. There’s been a lot of hard work and lot of time put in. To get back out there and get the feel of the game and to get your feet back under you feels great.”
If they were able to get extended work during the Colts’ organized team activities and mini-camp, as well as in training camp later this summer, that would be a definite plus. It would mark a seven-month recovery period for a pair of knee injuries that usually take about a year to fully rehab.
“We had good surgeons,” Hart joked. “It’s just going to mean a lot of hard work. We’ve got a great staff in our training room that’s going to help get us prepared to do something like that.”